How to Apply
The entire ACFRE program must be completed within two (2) years of the date that the ACFRE Certification Board accepts an application. A candidate may request one one-year extension to his/her calendar at any time during the process. Upon completion of the four sequential components outlined below, the ACFRE Certification Board confers upon candidates the designation of Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE).
- Currently working in the fundraising profession
- Minimum of 10 years full-time professional experience in the fundraising field or 15 years of other professional experience or 20 years full-time professional experience in the fundraising field in lieu of other certification (see professional requirements)
- Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
- Participation within the previous five years in at least 15 contact hours of senior-level management and 15 contact hours of senior-level leadership seminars and/or courses (Credit may be given for teaching or publishing in the field)
- Participation within the previous five years in at least 10 hours of ethics courses
- Currently holds Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential, or the Fellow, Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (FAHP), International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising (IADF), or minimum of 20 years full-time professional experience in fundraising
- Adherence to AFP’s Code of Ethical Standards and the Donor Bill of Rights
- Membership and active participation in a field-related professional organization, with demonstrated volunteer service to nonprofit organizations
Four Stage ACFRE Process
This is a brief overview of the credentialing process. For additional detail, please download the materials below.
*Please note: If you feel you are qualified for the ACFRE but you don’t exactly meet the eligibility requirements, please send a letter of inquiry prior to submitting an application.
As an applicant, you must demonstrate basic eligibility to begin the process, but the overall application communicates much more than eligibility. A significant portion of the application covers continuing education in advanced leadership, management and ethics, which is your opportunity to highlight your depth and breadth of knowledge and general curiosity about our sector.
Another part of the application asks you to list your volunteer service to the sector, such as board service to a charitable organization, and volunteer service to the profession, like mentoring and AFP chapter or international leadership. The reviewers want to know that you are invested in the philanthropic sector and are demonstrating interest in service that will be expected of a successful ACFRE.
There is also a question regarding your experience with ethical decision making. As you should expect, ethics is a critical component of all the ACFRE review stages. As you advance through the process, you are challenged with increasingly complex issues around ethics, and the application is your chance to show that you’re ready to move down that path.
When the ACFRE Certification Board accepts an application, individuals become candidates for Advanced Certification and may submit a portfolio. A portfolio consists of materials that document the candidate’s professional performance during the past five years.
The portfolio is your chance to show off your past work. Think of this as a historical perspective of your career over the last five years. Samples can be very simple or very elaborate, and it is important to demonstrate your personal contributions to each piece. When you’re done with your portfolio, regardless of the outcome, it will become a resource guide for you, and to those you mentor, for years to come.
The written exam is an essay format exam that allows the candidate to express their depth and breadth of knowledge in the field. The exam is administered at the AFP conference, select AFP leadership meetings, and upon special arrangement at AFP International headquarters.
The essay format will allow you to demonstrate your talents in developing an argument and effectively communicating your thoughts in written form, in addition to showing your understanding of fundamental fundraising principles and best practices.
Candidates are expected to demonstrate to the three person review panel mastery of advanced knowledge and understanding, both theoretical and practical, in the broad field of fundraising and in two of the candidate’s specialty areas. Within that framework, candidates’ responses will address fundraising ethics, management, leadership, planning, and problem solving.
The fee for each stage of the ACFRE process is $400. Thanks to a grant from CAF America, anyone who applies for the ACFRE may ask the ACFRE Certification Board to waive $200 of the $400 application fee. In addition, any ACFRE candidate who successfully completes the application phase of the ACFRE process is eligible to ask the ACFRE Board to waive the fee for any ensuing phases (portfolio, written and/or oral exam). Retake fees for any stage are $400 and are the responsibility of the candidate.
The End Result
“The credentialing process changes the candidate,” said C. Vernon Snyder, ACFRE, during the January ACFRE board meeting. The process can help you have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a fundraiser, give you the opportunity to invest in your professional development, and allow you to take personal responsibility for your career progression. Regardless of the outcome of your ACFRE journey, you will have moments of introspection, frustration, great disappointment and great joy. At the end, the board hopes that your commitment to your career, to the philanthropic sector, and to supporting your colleagues through lifelong learning, mentoring, and volunteer leadership will be stronger than ever.
I’m grateful for the process of becoming an ACFRE as well as being one! There’s no substitute for the feelings of professional accomplishment, and I cherish the friendships made along the way with other dedicated professionals.
–Jan F. Brazzell, Ph.D., ACFRE